Aragones: "Russia has become a winning team"

Spain coach Luis Aragones stressed Wednesday that Russia - Spain's opponent Thursday in the semifinals of Euro 2008 - "has become a winning team."

"They have tremendous counter-attacking speed that we will have to contain, and in the physical aspect it is the best team of all of us that are playing," he said. "But I have full confidence in the team and in the belief that we will come out on top. It will be a terrible effort, but I am confident on going through to the final."

Aragones noted that the Russian team has grown over the course of the tournament, after losing 4-1 to Spain in their group-play opener.

The coach said he has no doubts about his own team and plans to field the same men who beat Russia and Sweden in the first round and drew with Italy in the quarterfinals, when Spain advanced via penalty shootout.

"We have no injuries, the team is doing fine, and we think it is the team that can perform best, with some variants, like playing with one striker or two," Aragones said. "They are performing well, and when things work out you should not touch them."

However, he also praised substitutes, who beat Greece in the first round: "Sometimes I say, 'Who are better, these or the others?'"

Aragones refused to give striker Andrei Arshavin all the credit for Russia's success.

"There are four or five really impressive players, like (Yuri) Zhirkov or (Roman) Pavlyuchenko," Aragones insisted.

"We have to know where to put pressure to take the ball from them and cause them the necessary damage."

He once again favoured counterattack to beat Russia, after the strategy delivered great results on June 14 in Innsbruck, dpa reported.

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